Volunteer genealogists plan Anoka County cookbook


“Nothing brings a family together better than food.” That’s the idea behind the Anoka County Genealogical Society’s (ACGS) What’s Cookin’ in the County cookbook planned for publication next May. From now until November, the group will be busy seeking and compiling recipes from county residents.

Marilyn Anderson, president of the Anoka County Genealogical Society and curator of the Anoka County Historical Society, said the idea for a cookbook based on family traditions came up during a discussion of the county’s 150th anniversary celebration next year.

“We’re looking for family recipes that have been handed down, as well as brand new ones. We also want the story behind the recipe: who made it special, maybe a little history of how it came to be. If possible, we’d like to print a photograph of the cook as well, with a brief biography about him or her, and maybe a funny story or anecdote.”

Anderson said a family’s passed-down recipes “go back to the value of keeping your family history alive. Besides that,” she added, “we get some great food. There isn’t anything that brings a family together better than food.”

Anderson’s own history with family food and tradition is Swedish; it includes a bad story as well as a good one. “My story is about lutefisk and lefse. I remember walking into the kitchen at holidays and getting a whiff of the lutefisk. It was too much for me. I wondered how people ever got it past their noses and into their mouths.

“But my grandma also made lefse, and I have her recipe. I also inherited her depression glass, so at holidays we put the lefse on her plate. That way, we can still bring her to the table.”

Anderson said they’re seeking a wide variety of food and food-related stories. “The cookbook can even include stories of the white elephant fruitcake that gets passed around,” she said. “We’ve had so many new ethnic groups coming in to the county; we hope that they will also submit. We know there are many wonderful stories out there about why they chose Anoka County, and where their families originally came from.”

The cookbook will have a soft cover, glossy-coated so it will be usable and spill-proof, likely with a spiral back. At this point, Anderson said, they’re not sure of its price.

The society has a cookbook submission form available on its “website”:http://www.ac-hs.org, click on “Anoka County Links,” choose “The Anoka County Genealogical Society.”)

They’ve already received some recipes from Columbia Heights, Anderson said, thanks to Julienne Wyckoff, president of the Columbia Heights Historical Society. Wyckoff said that although she doesn’t have any favorite family recipes herself, she passed the request along to as many people as she could think of, including contacts at local churches. She said she was happy to hear that people are contributing items to the cookbook project.
Anderson said their target publication date is 10 months away. “We hope to have it ready and published and for sale by May, 2007, in time for when the wagon train comes to the Anoka County fairgrounds next year.”

(The Anoka County Sesquicentennial Wagon Train, sponsored by the Anoka County Historical Society, will be a historical reenactment of a wagon train that passed through the county 150 years ago. The event is scheduled for May 15-20, 2007, and will include 20 wagons, 60 head of livestock and 100 people (anybody interested can register on the historical society’s website, but they have to bring their own wagon and livestock). The train will start at Coon Lake and travel to Bunker Hills campground and Anoka County Fairgrounds.)

The genealogical society
The society was founded in 1975, with the Anoka County Historical Society acting as its “parent.” Anderson said, “They are two separate entities, but they live in the same house.” (2135 Third Ave. N., Anoka)

Their focus is family history research. The society’s most recent major project, a cemetery project, was completed in 2000 for the new millennium; they identified people buried in Anoka County’s cemeteries.

The genealogical society has no paid employees and is staffed by volunteers. The group meets the first Monday of every month at the history center (although not in July or August), and the meetings are open to the public. The board meets four times a year.

“We’re a teaching society; anybody can join. You don’t need ties to the county to belong to our organization,” Anderson said. “We can show you how to get your family history. Sometimes we bring in special speakers who are knowledgeable about researching different parts of the world. They would tell you the best place to search if you’re looking in Sweden, for instance. And Anoka County has a wonderful research library.”

For information on the Anoka County Genealogical Society or the Anoka County Historical Society, call 763-421-0600. The web site for the historical society is “www.ac-hs.org”:http://www.ac-hs.org; the genealogical society can be reached on that web site through a link.